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Can Liquor Stores Be Sued for Unlawful Alcohol Service Under Texas Law?

  • Last Updated: March 3rd, 2023
  • By: Mike Grossman
  • Dram Shop

Can drunk driving victims sue a liquor store or grocery store? Here's what the law says:

Almost any time a drunk driving accident occurs, people automatically assume that the driver became intoxicated while at a bar or restaurant and therefore, one of those establishments is liable. What many people do not realize is that liquor stores and grocery stores can also be liable if they illegally sell alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated. This article will discuss scenarios in which a liquor store may be liable and how our dram shop attorneys can use the Texas Dram Shop Act to support your claim.

Below, experienced dram shop attorney, Michael Grossman discusses how this works in practice and how injured Texans can get the recovery they deserve, but also be sure to check out our Comprehensive Guide to Dram Shop Law.

Questions answered on this page:

  • How can liquor stores be held liable for improper alcohol sales?
  • What remedies does the Texas Dram Shop Act afford people who have been injured by liquor store negligence?
  • How can an experienced dram shop attorney help hold liquor stores accountable when they hurt someone in our community?

How can we hold liquor stores liable?

Many people are somewhat confused about how a liquor store can be liable for a drunk driving accident. It is pretty easy to understand that if someone is sitting at a bar and is served too many drinks, that the bar will be responsible for any harm that results. But at a liquor store, you are almost always purchasing more than is safe for you to consume all at once. So how can they know if you are a danger?

The number one way a liquor store may be liable is if a person shows up drunk and tries to buy alcohol. In this situation, the liquor store is legally barred from selling them any alcohol. If the liquor store contributes in any way to their drunkenness, and that person then hurts someone else in a drunk driving or other alcohol-related accident, the liquor store can be sued by the injured victim under the Texas Dram Shop Act.

Occasionally patrons will purchase alcohol, sit and drink it at that location, and then attempt to purchase more. If it is clear to the sales clerk that the customer is drunk, or should be intoxicated based on the amount of alcohol they have consumed, then they are not allowed to sell them anymore and are liable if they do. Furthermore, in Dallas, it is illegal to consume alcohol on a liquor store's property. The city requires them to post signs warning customers about this law and keep an eye out to ensure that customers do not engage in this type of behavior. There is simply no excuse for this scenario to ever happen.

Lastly, grocery and liquor stores can be held liable for selling alcohol to minors who then cause serious accidents. The scenario, which we've seen repeatedly, is that a minor buys beer or liquor from the store, drinks it in the car, and later causes an accident that kills themselves and/or others. Under the Dram Shop Act, even if the grocery or liquor store merely "contributed" to the youth's intoxication, then they could be held financially responsible for the incident.

The standard for determining whether someone is too intoxicated to purchase alcohol.

Liquor store owners and clerks are required to go through specific alcohol awareness training as regulated by the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC). They learn through their certification ways in which they can identify a person as being obviously intoxicated. Signs of obvious intoxication include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Inability to form coherent thoughts or communicate normally
  • Inability to walk straight or without assistance
  • Stumbling and lack of coordination
  • Glassy eyes
  • Lack of focus
  • Easily angered or belligerent
  • Wildly inappropriate behavior<
  • Either extreme outgoing behavior, or extreme timidity

Liquor and grocery stores often ignore these signs. Why? The same reason restaurants and bars do: for money. Further, the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission requires sellers to undergo training to identify youths and request an ID. Far too many clerks and store owners think it's "cool" to look the other way and sell an underage person alcohol anyhow or they figure that they won't get caught. Sadly, too many times it is unsuspecting people in the community who pay the price for this attitude. The Texas Dram Shop Act gives citizens legal tools to hold these bad actors accountable.

You need skilled attorneys to find the responsible parties and hold them to account.

If a customer comes into a liquor store presenting these characteristics the clerk should easily discern that they are obviously intoxicated and refuse to sell them any alcohol. If they do sell them alcohol despite their obvious intoxication, the store can be criminally and civilly liable if they proceed to hurt anyone in a drunk driving accident. However, liquor stores don't just raise their hands and say "Yep, we're the ones who broke the law and caused innocent people to be injured through our negligence."

It takes an experienced dram shop lawyer, like those at Grossman Law Offices to gather evidence and hold negligent liquor stores accountable. That's why for over 25 years, our attorneys have pursued those who negligently sell alcohol throughout Texas. In that time, we have won compensation for hundreds of injured Texans.

Of course, the amount of negligence a court will be willing to place on the store varies by case and you will need to meet with one of our experienced dram shop attorneys to decide whether filing a suit against the liquor store would be in your best interest. For a free consultation, call Grossman Law Offices at (855) 326-0000. We answer the phone at any hour, day or night.

If you've been injured through negligent alcohol service, you may be interested in these related articles:

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